There's no faking the joy of marriage and spiritual life

  • Written by Claudia Parker



   Yes, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve faked it before. When my husband, Don, realized I was faking it, he was appalled. But, before you judge me, give me the opportunity to explain.

It was October of 2002. We’d only been married for three months. Our newly recited vows drew us toward activities designed to help marriages last. The Married Couples Ministry at Salem Baptist Church was hosting a weekend marriage retreat. Their website laid it out beautifully, “Learn how to have a joyful relationship with good communication, intimacy, financial security, and love.”

We signed up with zeal!

   Salem Baptist Church is known for doing things real big. They did not disappoint as the festivities were held at the gorgeous Wyndam Hotel & Resort in Itasca.

The opening ceremony left us mesmerized as we watched a step-show made up of married couples. A step-show is a complex performance involving synchronized, percussive movement, singing, speaking, chanting, dancing and drama. In the 1960s, historically black fraternities and sororities began stepping on college campuses as a rite of passage for pledges.

Now stepping has evolved from campus organizations to high schools, local community events and church groups. The precision in their claps, boot stomps and body alignment left me speechless. That wasn’t the only thing that left a loss for words. My ears expanded during our “wives only” breakout session from the marital discord revealed. Once the couples reconvened, the raised eyebrows on Don’s face said the husbands dropped a few bombs as well.

   The dramatized play that evening brought to life every major issue a marriage could experience. Some women sobbed aloud, for them, things were hitting close to home. The next morning was our final session. Impacted couples gave testimonies of deliverance. Everyone seemed moved. Upon conclusion, the retreat leader told couples who wanted prayer to stand in line. The pews went empty. We were 100 couples deep, single file. Soft music covered the hushed chatter of those of us who found ourselves at the end of the line.

So engrossed within ourselves, Don and I didn’t notice the powerful anointing hitting the recipients of prayer. They were going down like fighters in a boxing match, all with just a touch from the palm of the pastor’s hand. Now three couples from our turn, Don tells me we should take our seats. “Are you insane?” I whispered while moving up again.

He kissed my cheek and replied, “I’m not in the mood to faint. It don’t take all that. We can pray at home!” Terrified of the impression sitting would leave, I yanked him over. The elder began putting anointing oil on Don’s head. Then, just as he had with others, he professed blessings over him, stretched his palm and struck him lightly on the forehead.

Don didn’t budge!

   The elder repeated this palm strike a few more times. He looked bewildered, as if his circuit to the Lord had malfunctioned. It wasn’t him, it was Don. He said he felt God’s power but had chosen to quench the Spirit.

I, on the other hand, FELL OUT as soon as the elder touched me. My school of thought was, “When in Rome, do as the Roman do.” After lying quietly several seconds, I eased one eye open to check my surroundings. The infuriated look on Don’s face told me I was BUSTED! He’d been staring down at me the whole time wondering if I was r-e-a-l-l-y out. He mouthed, “Get up!”

I hustled to get to my feet. He tugged at my arm and walked us briskly to our seats. He remarked, “This is a new low. I can’t believe you FAKED the Holy Ghost!”

If you ask me, we were equally awful, both guilty of a disgraceful smokescreen. Neither of us had been honest about what we were feeling that day. Don felt something, as the minister prayed for him, there were real tears streaming down his face. I actually didn’t. I was distracted. All I was thinking as the Elder prayed is, "I hope they catch me good."

   Don and I will be attending Salem Baptist Church's marriage retreat again this weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day. My, how we’ve grown over these 14 years.

Today, I stand firm in knowing that despite being tempted to the lure of pleasing people, I’m confident and proud of the woman I am. It is my intention to live a life that is pleasing unto God, not man. This means I must learn how to take His direction by hearing His voice.

Are you wondering how someone can hear God’s voice? It’s not audible; at least it hasn’t been for me. I’d be a little freaked out if it was. It comes from within. It’s a subtle thought. It’s a dream or a message within a song. Or it might be random advice from a loved one or stranger that fits your situation perfectly.

When you hear it, you’ll know it’s meant for you. Don’t allow the perception of others to distract you or quench what you know is real. The pleasure of a purpose driven life awaits you.

Excerpts of this column first appeared in the Inside Oak Lawn Magazine in 2013.


Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.


‘Super Sunday’ turns 50 years old

  • Written by Joe Boyle


The Super Bowl organizers are having a party and were all invited. The big game that pits the top teams in the American Conference and National Conference will square off at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.

This mega game really needs no hype but this year will be Super Bowl 50. The NFL will celebrate with special guests and a crowded halftime show. More on that later.

And to get into the spirit of the big game, here is a quiz question. What team has won the most Super Bowls? The answer will appear at the end of the column.

Fifty games means this contest has been around a long time. But I have been around a long time as well. I actually remember the first Super Bowl. This was so long ago that the first game was not even called the Super Bowl back then. It was officially titled the AFL-NFL Championship Game.

The fervor and buzz that surrounds recent Super Bowls was lacking from this game. The Green Bay Packers won the NFC title game in the so-called “Ice Bowl” in December of 1966. The Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

The National Football League and American Football League decided to finally meet in a championship game played at a neutral site. Since the game was going to be played in January, a warm-weather city was going to serve as hosts.

The Kansas City Chiefs were the AFC representatives and there was even some talk they could defeat Green Bay. They had some star players in quarterback Len Dawson and running back Mike Garrett. However, I’m not sure anyone bought into that. The championship game was played early in the afternoon on Jan. 15, 1967 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Lots of us watched the game at home out of curiosity. The stadium was not even sold out. The Packers, after a slow start, romped to a 35-10 victory. Legendary Packer head coach Vince Lombardi was asked how the Chiefs compared to other NFC teams. He replied that they were like facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were then perennial cellar dwellers in the NFC before moving to the AFC. Ouch.

The Packers rolled over the Oakland Raiders the following year. “Broadway Joe” Namath staged an amazing upset in 1969 as the New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts, 16-7, for the AFC’s first Super Bowl. The game had arrived. The contest was still played earlier in the day and marching bands performed at halftime. The marching band gave way a few years later to the “Up With People” singers.

In regards to the Super Bowl game, legend has it that the children of Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt were bouncing a Super Ball, a tightly wound ball that would bounce repeatedly. It was popular toy for kids in the mid-1960s. Hunt watched in amusement and later brought it up to some reporters. He casually referred to the championship game as the Super Bowl. Some reporters continued to use the term and, as they say, the rest is history.

The games began to start later in the day to assure a larger television audience and allow for charging higher fees for commercials. Well-known musical acts began popping up in the 1990s like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Shania Twain. The 2000s had Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. The NFL then elected to bring on established veteran rockers who were deemed safer like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Prince. But there were complaints about the Stones’ “Start Me Up” and Prince’s unique way of gripping a guitar behind a screen.

For the most part, these halftime shows are entertaining. The only problem is of late these performances have a Las Vegas glitz to it. This year, Coldplay will perform at halftime but they will also be joined by Bruno Mars and Beyonce. The stage appears to be a little too crowded for a 20-minute show but the NFL is all into excess.

So, the halftime show has to be big. The commercials are another reason casual fans tune in to see some of the first-run advertising moments. Some of them are funny while others fall flat. That will be debated the next day.

Oh, and there is the game. In case you didn’t know the AFC will be represented by the Denver Broncos while the NFC has the Carolina Panthers . This is a championship game in which a lot of people will tune in who could care less about the contest. I guess that’s the appeal of the Super Bowl. The game is played on a Sunday in early February. The NFC has the stage to themselves.

Now back to that quiz question. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls, more than any other NFL team. Now get prepared for two hours of pre-game hype, Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars. It’s show time.

Joe Boyle is the editor of the Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Resist taking new drugs until they are on market for five to seven years

  • Written by Dee Woods


I’m going to give you some information that America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given American patients as yet, according to the authors of Best Pills/Worst Pills Newsletter. This is an issue I can totally relate to regarding drugs and interactions and contraindications. The article appeared in the January 2016 issue of Worst Pills/Best Pills, a public citizen newsletter regarding various drugs.

The Canadian counterpart of the FDA did something that none of the American agencies have done, according to WP/BP. It seems that back in July of 2015, Health Canada issued a serious warning about mixing certain drugs. Health Canada warned of the risk of extremely dangerously low levels of blood sugar when repaglinide and clopidogrel are taken together.

Repaglinide (PRANDIN) is a drug for Type 2 diabetes and Clopidogrel (PLAVIX) is a drug to prevent blood clots. They additionally listed PRANDIMET, (another combination drug for type 2 diabetes) also containing METFORMIN, as causing the serious drop in blood sugar. Dangerously low so as to lead to death or coma. So far, according to the publication, the FDA has not warned the American public of this danger.

One of our experiences with drug interactions occurred when my husband was given Plavix after his stroke in 2002. Plavix was to prevent blood clots. Because doctors had given him too much Coumadin and other anticoagulants, he ended up with a bleeding ulcer and other internal bleeding.

Because of his bleeding ulcer, (that he never had prior to the overuse of blood thinners), he was also prescribed a proton pump inhibitor (PPI’s) such as Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium and other acid preventing drugs.

But, in a shocking turn, he was rushed to the hospital, at which point he was found to have two blood clots in the lungs. They called them “saddle” blood clots (embolism) because they appeared as a saddle on the X-rays. It’s rare to survive such conditions. But, how could he have sustained blood clots when he had been taking Plavix?

Well, turns out proton pump inhibitors completely obliterate the anti-blood-clotting function of Plavix. No one had been aware of the fact that these drugs could not be taken together. It was only after people like my husband showed up with blood clots that it was finally realized the two drugs didn’t mix.

This is the reason the authors of Worst Pills/Best Pills suggest we never try new drugs. Unless there is absolutely no alternative and the condition is so serious, that there is no hope otherwise, we really should stand back and allow the drugs to be on the market at least five to seven years before tying them. Basically, the problems with new drugs aren’t seen until after they’ve been on the market for a while. You might want to ask your physician about the warning the Canadian government is giving to their citizens if you are on Plavix or one of the type 2 diabetes drugs to assure you have no dangerous drops in blood pressure.

Dee Woods can be reached at


Rising above being vindictive puts you in a better place

  • Written by Claudia Parker


 Workplace betrayal!

I liken it to the corpse of a rat, rotting between the office walls where your desk sits. Since that stench can’t be masked, you’re forced to tolerate an uncomfortable environment until it fully decomposes. Pending that occurrence, you avoid deep inhalations of the contaminated atmosphere.  

Haven’t we all been there, at least metaphorically? As my grandma used to say, “Honey child, let me tell you…”

Here are a few scoops of dirt from back-in-the-day. My first corporate job was in the mortgage division of a bank. The mortgage industry was just as volatile as some of the people in the office. Depending on the day, you never knew w-h-a-t to expect.

I could only put my confidence in one person, my supervisor. She had a razor-sharp mind and a supersize personality. She wore a moderate aroma of arrogance with an extra wit for humor. We became friends fast, she had my back. The women were few around the place. She looked after those of us who felt vulnerable to “boys behaving badly.” It was a rowdy atmosphere of profanity-laced conversations, tight deadlines and unpaid overtime.

Not my cup of tea. I sent several S.O.S prayers up to God. “Get me out of this place,” I pleaded. Just pulling into the parking lot sent me into an anxiety attack. I felt like I needed to breathe into a brown paper bag a couple times to calm my nerves. To my delight, God intervened. On my voicemail one afternoon was a male voice asking if I’d like to work for his organization. “If you’re interested in an interview, call me at…” said the caller. A promotion. Sweet!

There had been rumors of a reorganization of our department so my supervisor, whom I confided in about the message, was eager to help. “I say go for it,” she urged. “I’ll even write you a letter of recommendation.”

The rumors turned out to be true. Within a couple of weeks, we all received our walking papers. I was the only one optimistic because I had already interviewed for a new job. Come to find out, my supervisor, the one person I thought I could trust, tried to snatch the opportunity. The letter of recommendation (LOR) she said she was writing on my behalf turned out to be her cover letter and resume. I suppose I was naïve. I didn’t question her insistent request to send the LOR to them directly. “Give me their contact info, I’ll send it for you, it’s the least I could do,” she said.

She had my back all right, with a sharp-edged knife to it!

I felt like trail blazing over to her with a few choice words but I refrained. Betrayal can only occur where trust is established. She hurt me, but I didn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing I knew what she’d done. It took a few weeks for the perspective employer to decide, but I was the candidate they selected.

So what became of the “other” candidate and my relationship? Well, she made attempts to connect with me in the weeks that followed. My response was always polite, yet fleeting. Eventually, she recognized I wasn’t interested in entertaining a friendship that was a facade.

That experience forged a self-control I’ve honed over the years. A wise man once said, “It is impossible for offenses not to come but woe unto him through whom they come.” Allowing myself to become bitter, angry and vindictive toward people who wrong me doesn’t align with the way I desire to live. And it certainly doesn’t provide the example I wish to set for my children.

Light illuminates darkness. When given the choice, chose to be light. Not every betrayal needs to be dignified with a response. True strength is proven with restraint.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.  


Marveling at the revolving door of life

  • Written by Joe Boyle

I met a group of friends from my grammar school days last Friday for lunch. We had a great meal and had a lot of laughs. It made for an enjoyable afternoon.

But it occurred to me how life is so cyclical. I graduated from St. Margaret of Scotland, which was located at 99th and Throop in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Our family had moved to the community when I was in the fourth grade.

We moved to Washington Heights from Roseland. I was actually excited about the move. St. Margaret’s was only two blocks away. The previous school I went to -- St. John De La Salle -- was over a mile. That was a long walk.

The only awkward moment was that my first day of class at St. Margaret’s was in October. I was led in by my new teacher, Sister Sulpice, and I felt every eye on me. That was my introduction to St. Margaret’s. After being initially apprehensive and nervous, I began to get used to going to the school and made some friends. I made more friends over the next couple of years playing baseball and football.

When you are a kid, your world often revolves around you. I recall going to an open house for Mendel High School when I was in eighth grade. I noticed two familiar looking guys my age looking over some trophies. They then left the room and it occurred to me that one of them was named Mickey Mahlum. He lived a block away from me in Roseland, near 100th and Michigan.

I walked home from school often with Mickey Mahlum and would go to St. John’s for weekend activities, like watching movies. We weren’t close friends but we got along. We would laugh and tease each other, like most kids would.

But seeing him that day reminded me that life goes on beyond your neighborhood borders. We visited our Roseland block once after we moved but never returned after that. I now lived in Washington Heights and was entrenched in the neighborhood. It’s as if when I moved, life stopped in my Roseland neighborhood. After seeing Mickey Mahlum, I realized it didn’t.

I recall my graduation from St. Margaret’s. While I had fun there, it was time to move on. We were all little restless at that point. My job, along with many of my friends, was to drive the nuns crazy. We did a good job of that. But I also have some fond memories of the Sisters of Notre Dame. It was another time and a different era. At Catholic schools today, there are few if any nuns teaching or residing at the parishes.

Many of us went on to different high schools. I kept in contact with my close friends and we still hung out. But the neighborhoods surrounding St. Margaret’s was in transition. The once predominately Irish Catholic neighborhood became mostly African American. Many of my friends had moved and casual acquaintances left. I stayed in contact with many friends, but life begins to tug you in different directions.

Our family eventually moved but I did not spend much time at our new home. I went away to college and made some more friends. One day stood out in my mind. I was attending summer school during the summer of 1976 at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Walking through an area called the Union in the middle of the campus that featured fast food restaurants and offices, I saw a familiar face walking towards me. It was none other than Mickey Mahlum. I talked to him briefly wondering why he was there. He was visiting an old friend from the old Roseland neighborhood who was attending WIU.

After saying our goodbyes, I shook my head. What were the chances of seeing this person from my distant past walking through a student lounge in Macomb?

But I guess when you are around long enough, it’s like going through a revolving door. People from our distant past come back into your lives. I got married after college and we had two kids. Most of the mid-1990s into the mid-2000s was spent helping to coach my son’s baseball teams and my daughter’s basketball squad.

I kept up with some friends from St. Margaret’s but not everyone. A recent St. Margaret’s reunion brought a lot of us together again. We can’t bring back the past but it was fun looking at pictures from our lunch outing. And why not have fun at this stage. That’s what it is all about.

And who knows? Maybe I will see Mickey Mahlum again.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .